According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), over 18 percent of adults in the US experience mental illness in a given year. It is likely that you, a family member or friend has suffered from anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression are among the top conditions I see in my practice, making it no surprise that emotional wellbeing and mental health are closely linked with physical health. There have been many times that I’ve uncovered a mental or emotional root causes to a disease that initially seems unrelated to mental health.
In the field of alternative and holistic medicine, the mind body connection is addressed in-depth and the patient’s lifestyle is assessed to help identify destructive patterns that can be corrected. It is important to screen for mental health issues in all fields of healthcare and address them with compassion and care.
If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, be sure to have your blood levels checked. There could be an underlying physical cause, such as low Vitamin D levels, an undiagnosed auto-immune disorder or a thyroid condition causing your poor mood.
Here are some of my favorite holistic approaches to addressing anxiety and depression:
Nutrition: Diets are often overlooked when trying to improve mood, but it’s one of the biggest factors. I find people have the biggest changes in their mental health when they change their diet to include mostly whole foods instead of processed and fast food. The brain is an organ that needs proper nourishment, just like muscles and bones.
When looking to decrease anxiety:
- Remove sugary foods and highly caffeinated beverages like energy drinks and coffee.
- Swap coffee and energy drinks for organic green tea, which contains naturally occurring amino acid L-theanine that will help you to relax and focus.
- Add in foods that are high in magnesium such as spinach, chard, cocoa, pumpkin seeds, almonds, bananas and avocados.
- Try making a breakfast smoothie with coconut milk, raw cocoa powder, frozen banana, Ceylon cinnamon and almond butter. The magnesium from the banana and cocoa will improve your mood, the cinnamon will help your blood sugar and the almond butter will keep you satisfied till lunch.
Supplements and herbs: These can be very powerful during a rough time.
For chronic or intense stress and anxiety:
- The adrenals are important glands often overlooked when looking to decrease anxiety. The these glands regulate cortisol, the hormone that helps respond to stress. I like to address adrenal gland health with herbs in a synergistic formula. Herbs like ashwagandha and holy basil are great for helping with stress and anxiety. Consider Gaia’s Adrenal Health Daily Support, a blend that has both ashwagandha and holy basil, to nourish your adrenals. If anxiety is affecting your sleep, you might try Gaia’s Adrenal Health Nightly Restore.
- Add omega-3 fatty acids (which are great for brain health!) like VeganDHA by Minami (a vegan version of fish oil), methylated B vitamins like B Activ by Xymogen and mood boosting herbs like mimosa or lemon balm tincture or in a capsule.
When using supplements for mental health issues consult your doctor or medical health professional first. Keep in mind that there are several helpful supplements on the market and a health professional can help choose products more specific to you and the root cause of the issue.
- If you have a mental health issue, even if it’s mild anxiety, I highly recommend meeting with a licensed therapist regularly
- Consider adding in the care of other professionals such as an
- nutritionist and/or energy and spiritual practitioner.
A team of experienced practitioners can offer many more therapeutic options to address the cause of the issue.
In cases that need extra care, I like to utilize biofeedback, Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), and tapping (EFT). There are limitless options to addressing mental health issues and as research supports mind-body techniques, more practitioners are becoming trained in these techniques in order to offer their patients greater healing.
- Lastly, I believe that lifestyle changes are the most important factor in addressing anxiety and depression. This means doing things that help you change your life and mindset to improve mood. For example adding in yoga, exercise, meditation or prayer into your daily routine has been shown to greatly improve mood. This isn’t new science – these are ancient practices that have nourished minds and bodies for generations.
- It is also important to remove barriers and create paths of opportunity. Simply put, things that keep you down can kindly leave and things that lift you up are welcome. Sometimes things are situational and difficult to avoid, and of course life can seem like a nonstop series of letdowns and pain but peaking with a professional can help you determine what is stunting you and what can help you grow. Whatever the situation is, you have the power to choose your emotions, reactions and beliefs.
Find what brings you joy and allow yourself to be happy and healthy.
If you want to learn more about mental health, visit nami.org
Lauren Sanchez, ND* received her Naturopathic Doctorate at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ. Her natural approach to medicine facilitates healing by respecting the mind, body and spirit connection. She also specializes in helping individuals reach optimal wellness through a plant-based regimen.
*Naturopathic doctors are not currently licensed in Texas.